Learning about the climate from flooding

What does studying floods teach us about the climate?

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Flooding is something which can happen as a result of changes to the climate and here in the UK it’s becoming more common.

A bit of rain is something we’re used to in this country. Sometimes it’s fun to get your wellies on and jump in some puddles.

Rain is important for life – providing water to drink and keep clean, and helping crops and plants to grow. People also like to live near water – it’s relaxing and a great source of fun.

But too much rainwater can cause very serious problems – causing rivers to overflow and flood the surrounding areas, filling houses, schools and shops with water. You can imagine how scary that might be and how much damage would be done if that happened in your neighbourhood. You might even have to leave your home to stay somewhere else.

Climate explorers are very interested in studying rainfall and flooding to help us prepare for when these things happen – and to help prevent them causing damage.

It’s something that’s becoming more important. Rising global temperatures may cause heavier rainfall events, as well as sea levels to rise. So flooding is something that’s not going to go away.

Kate

Hi – I’m Kate and I’m a flood scientist.

Floods kill more people than anything else on the planet and are something which can affect us here in the UK. We can’t just hope they don’t happen – we have to accept that they are a part of life, and do our best to reduce the impact they have.

Flooding isn’t just becoming more frequent – but the levels of floodwater are becoming higher too. In 2015 flooding in Cumbria broke some of our strongest flood defences. My job is to try to work out what will happen to rivers when there is a lot of rainfall. If we know where the river will overflow then we can take measures to prevent damage to homes.

Great to know there is something we can do. But how can you tell where the overflows will be?

We make computer models of rivers and chuck a load of ‘virtual’ water into them. We keep going until the water starts to jump out.

When there is a real flood, we collect real data to see if our models were correct – whether the areas with the most flooding match what our computer model predicted.

Sounds like you get rather wet!

Well luckily we have a drone – a small flying robot – which uses sensors like infrared and thermal imaging to take measurements. Ours is called Firefly. It flies above the areas affected to collect the data.

Even though we can’t easily prevent natural disasters like flooding, it’s good to know that climate explorers are working hard to help us limit the damage they can do.

Next, we’ll be looking at how the animals can help us understand changes to the climate… click here!

You can hear Marina Ventura’s Climate Explorers weekdays from 5pm on Fun Kids!

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Marina Ventura’s Climate Explorers with support from the Natural Environment Research Council.

Click here to find out more!

Additional support thanks to Liverpool John Moores University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Met Office, and King’s College London.

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